A cohort of political commentators breathed a collective sigh of relief when Rishi Sunak was appointed prime minister.
This was nothing to do with party politics at all. On the contrary, many in the pundit bubble would dream of (at least explicitly) voting Conservative.
No, after a half-decade of drama, self-described “sensible centrists” now have two major party leaders they can superficially fawn over.
Rishi Sunak, widely (and rightly) lauded for being Britain’s first prime minister of south Asian heritage, represents a return to the centrist wing of the Tory Party. No more do we have the free-market fundamentalist vision of Liz Truss or the phrenetic fantasies of the ERG.
But we all saw what ‘boring sensible centrism’ did under David Cameron. This country is still yet to fully come to terms with the damage wreaked by austerity – an agenda that got away with being characterised as ‘tough but necessary’ despite being deeply ideological by a complacent commentariat.
On the opposite benches, Keir Starmer has risen from the ashes of post-Hartlepool polling to be an odds-on next prime minister.
But after the deeply cynical triangulating over his broken ’10 pledges’ for the leadership election, Sir Keir has proven himself to be a fickle ally of progressives. His most recent party conference speech was encouraging, but so was his leadership bid.
Both leaders are widely described as bland, centrist politicians. But under the most trying of times with the mounting cost-of-living crisis, we need a prime minister who can reassure the public that their needs will be prioritised over the profits of fossil fuel companies.
Starmer’s vision of a public energy company is an encouraging step in the right direction – but it is only a start in the face of soaring inflation, a wider-than-ever generational divide, and a war in Ukraine that threatens the liberty of our continent.
Sunak took sweeping measures during the Covid pandemic as Chancellor – most notably with the furlough scheme. But where is that initiative now?
Britain is in desperate need of radical change. Both party leaders would be wise to recognise the moment.
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